ESPN Wisconsin

The takeaway: Free Devin Harris

By JIM RUTLEDGE
jrutledge@espnwisconsin.com

Playing point guard in the NBA can be one of the more glamorous jobs in sports if you’re performing at a high level.

Just ask Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin.

A few years ago you could have also asked former Badger Devin Harris.

Although the hype for Harris never reached “Lin-sanity” levels, Harris did enjoy some attention that helped him earn a five-year deal worth over 30 million dollars in 2007.

“I am a Devin Harris fan,” TrueHoop/ESPN.com writer Henry Abbot said. “He is super fast, but he also seems to know how to move with or without the ball to get buckets. He even plays D!”

The reaction from Abbott was the general consensus on Harris and his deal.

Now?

Harris is going thru the motions with the Utah Jazz while waiting to be traded. He was almost traded during the offseason and is still on the block this year. Although you’d wish Harris could handle this situation better you can easily understand why he might become disenchanted with the business side of the NBA. He was an up and coming player with the Mavericks, an All-Star with the Nets and now a trade piece with the Jazz.

Did Harris suddenly become a bad player? No.

Last season, while playing for the terrible Nets and the bad Jazz, Harris still averaged 15 points and seven assists while shooting 42 percent from the field and 32 percent from downtown. Despite putting up solid numbers being a good point guard on a bad team is not what will take Harris’ career to another level.

When I mentioned Jeremy Lin I did so with hopes of making it clear that Lin is a better example of how a point guard is at his best when he’s in an offense that suits his talents.

Chauncey Billups didn’t find an offense that fit his talents until he was 26 years old. Before that Billups was a nomad point guard who played for three teams in five years. Billups’ numbers before Detroit don’t come close to what Harris has done with his career before he was 26 years old.

Billups not only benefited from playing in the right system, but he also benefitted from having good players around him. Winning builds confidence and it builds your perceived value.

Just ask Derek Fisher.

Fisher is the classic example of being in the right place at the right time. There is not one season in Fisher’s career that can hold a statistical candle to what Harris has done over the past six seasons, excluding this year.

The takeaway:

Devin Harris is a 28-year-old point guard who is hitting the physical prime of his career. He is a good, but not great player who hasn’t had a chance to play with a lot of talent around him. He’s the poster boy for good, but not great players who don’t fit the “winning cycle” of the team he is playing for. All Devin Harris needs is a chance to play for a team that fits his talents and talent level.

The Devin Harris NBA story still has many pages left. Where he ends up this year or next will dictate a happy or sad ending.

 

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